Trip to the Exploratorium

On Thursday, during our “break” from Charybdis and Scylla formal schooling, we took a day to visit the Exploratorium in San Francisco again. I’ve blogged about it multiple times including here, because we visit it often, and it is a fabulous place. It was particularly refreshing after our visit to the disappointing Academy of Sciences.

We went there the day after the free day (the first Wednesday of the month) which seems to be an excellent day to go, because it’s fairly sparsely visited. Neil not only got to test heat-sensitive chemicals with a docent, but was able to ask questions and do multiple tests.

Kelly was old enough to actually enjoy the exhibits (especially since Neil took a hand in encouraging her to check them out). This was particularly lucky, since the area that had formerly been set aside for toddlers had been remodelled into a magic and sense mysteries section. Kelly loved the new aspect, however, and was completely mystified by a new card game of “horseshoe”. How did the docent know what her special card was? Kelly guessed it could only be magic, which at the Exploratorium we know magic is just another version of science with a curious angle to it.

No matter how many people are at the Exploratorium, it never feels crowded because there are SO many exhibits of equal interest. Whereas at the Academy of Sciences, where people are 5 and 6 rows deep to look at the penguins, but almost totally missing at the sanctimonious Climate Change area, you’ll always find an open science exploration station at the Exploratorium. Once you start exploring, others will pop in to check it out, too, and you can move on. If by any chance that should fail, you can always step back and groove on the science as art vibe of the entire place.

I personally was charmed by my interaction with an exhibit builder. He was fixing a broken exhibit, and I quizzed him. Apparently, the Exploratorium builds exhibits not only for itself (though built-for-the-Exploratorium exhbits do deliberately tend to look funky and artsy) but also for science museums all over the nation. Apparently, the city has decided it doesn’t want to lease a 1910s airplane hanger any more, so the Exploratorium may move to the North Beach area instead. I’m sad, but only because the transitions of the Academy of Sciences and Happy Hollow Park have resulted in twee shadows of their former selves, with eco-religion at their core. (The De Young Museum was truly an upgrade, and I hope that is not an exception). And yes, being an exhibit builder for the Exploratorium is really one of the coolest jobs you can ever hope for, if you love science and modelling.

The Palace of Fine Arts, which I have loved for so many years, ever since (when I had just moved here) my friend Andy showed me how to climb up on the pedastals (which were later surrounded by plants just to discourage such a thing) was closed for construction. Nooo! You can’t tear down the pedastals, it would be so wrong!

Kelly did some art, twirled gigglingly in a tent with twin girls,  invited a tourist girl for a playdate (which her parents gently excused her from), found a baby to coo over, so it was good for her too. I left with good feelings for the Exploratorium, which did everything right that the Academy of Sciences did so wrong. We’ll certainly be back, and I can only hope its move will be for the better and not for the worst.

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